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Introduction To Garlic
This report contains basic information about garlic uses and potential side effects of taking garlic. Garlic is in the onion family and the bulb is edible. For thousands of years it has been used as a medicine and a spice.
Latin Names--Allium sativum
What Is Garlic Used For
- Garlic's most common uses as a dietary supplement are for high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
- Garlic is also used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers.
How To Use Garlic
Garlic cloves can be eaten raw or cooked. They may also be dried or powdered and used in tablets and capsules. Raw garlic cloves can be used to make oils and liquid extracts.
Garlic is much valued as a phyto-therapeutic crop. Garlic users, including many African people, extol its taste and health qualities. Crushed raw garlic is strongly antibiotic and has a reputation for lowering blood pressure and inhibiting thrombus formation, though its reputation in urban mythology for lowering cholesterol has not totally been proven. Leaves and bulbs are considered to have hypotensive, carminative, antiseptic, anthelmintic, diaphoretic and expectorant properties. Several attributed prophylactic qualities are questionable, but have resulted in a rich supply of and demand for medicinal pills, drinks and powders based on garlic extracts.
What the Science Says About Garlic
- Some evidence indicates that taking garlic can slightly lower blood cholesterol levels; studies have shown positive effects for short-term
(1 to 3 months) use. However, an NCCAM-funded study on the safety and effectiveness of three garlic preparations (fresh garlic, dried powdered garlic tablets, and aged garlic extract tablets) for lowering blood cholesterol levels found no effect.
- Preliminary research suggests that taking garlic may slow the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to heart disease or stroke.
- Evidence is mixed on whether taking garlic can slightly lower blood pressure.
- Some studies suggest consuming garlic as a regular part of the diet may lower the risk of certain cancers. However, no clinical trials have examined this.
- NCCAM is supporting studies looking at how garlic interacts with certain drugs and how it can thin blood.
- A single-blind, placebo-controlled study of garlic supplements in 150 hyperlipidemic subjects found highly significant reductions of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, along with a surprisingly robust increase of HDL cholesterol, after 6 weeks of treatment. It is not known whether this effect would persist at longer trial lengths.
Side Effects and Cautions
- Garlic appears to be safe for most adults.
- Side effects include breath and body odor, heartburn, upset stomach, and allergic reactions. These side effects are more common with raw garlic.
- Garlic can thin the blood (reduce the ability of blood to clot) in a manner similar to aspirin. This effect may be a problem during or after surgery. Use garlic with caution if you are planning to have surgery or dental work, or if you have a bleeding disorder. A cautious approach is to avoid garlic in your diet or as a supplement for at least 1 week before surgery.
- Garlic has been found to interfere with the effectiveness of saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV infection. Its effect on other drugs has not been well studied.
- Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Reference: National Institute of Health
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